Timeline: The History of Life Insurance
The history of life insurance is almost too big to fit on one timeline. It spans from today all the way back to 100 B.C., when Caius Marius, a Roman military leader, created a burial club among his troops. When a member died unexpectedly, other members would pay for the funeral expenses. Similar clubs followed suit, as Romans believed improper burials led to unhappy ghosts. Eventually, the clubs started including a stipend for the survivors of the deceased.
After the Roman Empire fell, life insurance didn't reappear until 1662, when London draper John Graunt discovered predictable patterns of longevity and death in a defined group of people, despite the uncertainty about the future longevity or mortality of an individual person. A few decades later, in 1693, astronomer Edmond Halley constructed the first mortality table to provide a link between life insurance premium and average life spans.
It wasn't until 1732, though, that the first insurance company in the United States formed in Charleston, S.C., and life insurance wasn't added to its product line until 1760. In 1756, Joseph Dodson reworked Halley's mortality table, linking premium rate to age. By 1759, the Presbyterian Synod of Philadelphia sponsored the first life insurance corporation in America for the benefit of Presbyterian ministers and their dependents. Episcopalians organized a similar fund a decade later.
After that, life insurance really took off. Check out the interactive timeline below for the rest of the story. And if we're missing something important, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can add it.
Browse the historical timeline using the buttons below.